Guest post by Randy A. Gerritse
This simple statement, which eventually became the title of my first ever poetry book after spending over a year writing daily poetry prompts on Twitter for the #vsspoem hashtag, may not be what it seems. This is not a conclusion, an endpoint. If anything, it signaled the start of my personal journey, a first stepping stone if you will to learning the craft of prose.
My first thoughts on the essence of poetry were on what it is not—that is, what it’s not to me, born from my early frustration with the most widespread form of poetic expression—forced structures of rhymes, connecting every other line in subjects mostly related to love. I felt that there had to be more to this poetry thing. In certain ways, I still do.
You see, I’ve always been a watcher on the sidelines, trying to make sense of the world and its many moving parts, fascinated by the little things that people seem to think that matter, and the big things they dismiss without a second thought. I have always studied patterns of expression and behavior. They intrigue me. As a species, we seem to love these recognizable templates of identity, of communication, of, well, everything. Just pick a form and fill in the blanks—voila, that’s you. Or at least, so the world always seemed to me, call me a cynic.
Today, roughly three years into my poetry journey of discovery of both my inner and outer realities, through even deeper than my usual levels of observation and introspection, what I’ve learned is that this thing we call poetry is highly personal. It is the expression of a moment, a feeling, an observation, in naught but words. It is the art to convey what these most human of time capsules meant to the narrator at their moment of conception, to an unknown future reader—more often than not, a future self.
Where I am now in my journey, is far from where I started. If I look back at my earliest work—still devoid of any punctuation—I see someone who I barely recognize, and not just in the choice of subject matter. My style of writing is still highly lyrical, but over the years my patterns have shifted, reflecting my changing insights and the changes in my everyday reality.
My early work, by a self who despised simple rhymes, despite their already distinct rhythms, these poems are riddled with cliches and naive preconceptions—shifted truths no longer my own. Often these writings feel disconnected to me now and could perhaps have used a little more rhyme to bind them into something more coherent to anyone but my past self. It’s funny how we grow, isn’t it?
Let me state this as clear as I can. Do not let anyone—not even me— ever tell you, what poetry is, or should be, for none but you can see inside your soul, your thoughts. If you feel your expression works best using a meter or a rhyming scheme? Go for it. If you think best in Haiku or Tanka? Five-seven-five the hell out of those thoughts and feelings. There is no right way, nor a wrong way. What there is though? Lots of poetic arrogance.
Where it comes to poetry, write for you, and only you. Go ahead and share those words, light up the world with your uniqueness, but do it for you—not glory in the eyes of others. Even the masters never found that in their lifetime. Cynics though, trolls and critics, those are ever-present, maybe more these days than in any other age before, ever but a click away.
For me, that first statement that became my first book still rings true, be it partly. The part about finding the rhythm, the living heartbeat of existence. I’ve since written many metered works, yet my poems and stories rarely follow conventional paths, for my truth follows a different rhythm than most. It always has. But that is my truth, and there are many.
Find yours, it might set you free—I know it did so for me.
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Arielle Haughee is the owner and founder of Orange Blossom Publishing.